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Democracy scores: J&K sees 71 per cent polling in first phase

The voters especially surprised the officials in the stronghold of the stone-pelters in the Valley constituencies located in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts. Election Commission officials said the poll percentage figures released so far were tentative and that it was likely to go up by two to three per cent as voting was going on at some places even after closure of voting at 4 pm. Polling began at 8 am in cold wave conditions.

A 61 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the 2008 Assembly polls for these 15 seats – six in Jammu division, five in Kashmir Valley and four in Ladakh. The polling was spread over seven districts. ‘Polling has gone absolutely peaceful without any incident. It was 100 per cent flawless polls and there was not a single incident which vitiates poll process,’ Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi.

Dealing a serious blow to separatist politics, thousands of voters had lined up before polling stations with nearly 10.52 lakh voters being eligible to vote. Separatist groups like all the factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF had called for a boycott of the polls and a general strike as well.

A total of 123 candidates including seven ministers were in the fray with the ruling coalition partners National Conference and Congress and the Opposition PDP and BJP fighting for the spoils. In five Kashmir Valley constituencies, two in Ganderbal district recorded 68 per cent turnout – an increase of 13 per cent from 2008 assembly polls.

In six seats of Jammu division, two constituencies in Doda district recorded a turnout of 76 per cent while it was 70 per cent each for the four seats in Kishtwar and Ramban districts.

While there was increase of eight per cent in Doda district and nearly four per cent in Ramban district, Kishtwar district recorded a drop of over three per cent. The four constituencies of Ladakh region, which normally witnesses high voter turnout, marked a decrease in number of voters exercising their franchise.

In two constituencies of Leh district, the turnout was 57 per cent, down from 61.88 per cent in 2008 assembly polls and substantially down from 68.23 per cent registered during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. In Kargil district, 59 per cent voters cast their votes against 72.90 per cent in 2008 elections.

Early morning chill and fog failed to dampen the spirits of the voters who had assembled at the polling stations an hour before the scheduled start of voting. The voting time had to be extended in several polling stations to allow those voters, who were already inside the polling station premises, to cast their votes.
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